Who are the two Irish fashion designers making dresses for the Oscars red carpet?
Designs by Helen Cody and Alison Conneely will be in the spotlight in Los Angeles this month
A dress typical of Alison Conneely’s red carpet style
Two Irish fashion designers will see their dresses on the red carpet at the Academy Awards on the 25th February in Los Angeles. They will face the lights alongside powerful international brands dressing and bejewelling stars paid hundreds and thousands of dollars for endorsements. Couturier Helen Cody, known for her craftsmanship and handwork, is dressing Nuria Blanco, producer of the animated film Late Afternoon which has been shortlisted for best short film award, while Connemara born Alison Conneely is making a gown for the film’s writer and director Louise Bagnall of the animation giant Cartoon Saloon in Kilkenny.
“Nuria fell in love with a dress I said I would never sell and only allow to be worn to such an important event and a nominee,” says Cody, explaining that the lavishly embellished smoky grey and lavender silk taffeta creation which took over 300 hours to complete, was made originally for the Crafts Council of Ireland Portfolio in 2014 and exhibited in Shanghai representing Ireland as part of Year of Design in 2015.
“I spent so much time making it – I kept at it and at it over a few months until I was happy with it. All the petals and feathers are hand cut, hand dyed and hand burnt and the dress appears moulded to the body, boned and fully corseted. Nuria knew about my work and emailed me and when she came to my studio and tried it on, I realised I could not top this ever; it is a master dress and it brings me joy to see someone so exquisite representing an Irish brand on the red carpet,” says Cody. Diamond and sapphire earrings to go with the dress are being made by jewellery designer Yvonne Ross in Kilkenny.
Another jeweller making pieces for Bagnall’s red carpet appearance, Dublin-based Natasha Sterling, recommended fashion designer Alison Conneely for the creative challenge of a bespoke gown.
“She (Bagnall) is very open and relaxed and I work instinctively and consider personality and character with every piece that is specially made. The most important thing for the Oscars when the world’s eyes are upon you, that you want the wearer to be comfortable and relaxed and not worry about the dress. A director is not a glamour model and there is a different form of artistic expression to an A-list celebrity. We tried a few different looks that are contemporary and modern and that express her personality rather than the dress wearing her,” explains Conneely, who has worked as a stylist and has drawn from those skills for the task. The full-length gown is in silk. “The silhouette is simple, but the colour is vibrant,” is all she will say about it.
Cody and Conneely are not the first Irish fashion designers to see their dresses on the red carpet. That challenge also faced Kildare-based designer Laura-Jayne Halton who dressed director Nora Twomey for Academy Award nominations for The Secret of Kells in 2010, The Breadwinner last year and producer Fodhla Cronin O Reilly for Head Over Heels in 2013.